London: Champions League (CL) winner Frank Lampard was deployed by the Premier League on Thursday as part of the mission to prevent a radical change to the format of European competitions.
At a meeting of European leagues and clubs in London, the former Chelsea midfielder who in his first season as manager for the Premier League team, spoke out against moves to expand the Champions League to add more fixtures.
The push has been advanced by Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli, who as head of the European Club Association has spent this year trying to turn the Champions League in a largely closed competition. However, the concept has faded amid widespread opposition.
But Agnelli still hopes for an expanded Champions League that will guarantee more games between the biggest teams.
“If you ask me, can we play more European games? I personally don’t know where you fit them in amongst our busy schedule,” Lampard said. “I would find it hard with the players to keep the quality level and the freshness within them. So I think if we did do that, there’ll be a lot of discussion about how that works practically and at the minute — and as a player — I actually felt the level was quite about right. The competition was good.
“We had the group stage, can we get through that? After Christmas, you know you are going into the real business end of the Champions League.”
After one season coaching Derby in the second tier, Lampard was hired by Chelsea to replace Maurizio Sarri to take his first top-flight managerial role.
Lampard won the Champions League playing for Chelsea in 2012, a triumph that secured a return ticket to the competition the following season after the west London club finished sixth in the Premier League.
But unless a team wins the Champions League or second-tier Europa League, the only way into the Champions League is based on the final position in domestic leagues.
The top four in England currently qualify for the Champions League. But Agnelli’s fading vision, which was presented by UEFA earlier in the year, would have seen the top 24 of the 32 Champions League group stage teams return the following season.
Lampard endorses the current format that rewards domestic performances. Chelsea is currently fifth in the Premier League, while Leicester is fourth in its pursuit of a second-ever Champions League qualification.
“You have to leave the carrot of being competitive,” Lampard said. “If you look at the Premier League table — Leicester, chances, they’re getting excited. What can they do? West Ham, Everton, teams that are spending and moving forward and they have great coaches and developing players are trying to get into that bracket. Because they know the rewards of that.
“So for me, it’s a huge thing on both parts. Domestically, what it means. And then, when you get there, what it means if you can be successful.”